Talk about coming late the party. I just got back from the afternoon matinee of I, Robot at the Hafa Adai Theaters. That’s the cheap movie theater here on Guam, shows are just $2.50 a pop.
For $2.50 it wasn’t a bad movie. There’s not an original concept in the movie; computers taking over the world a la Colossus: The Forbin Project and dozens of other films, cybernetic limbs like Luke Skywalker (or the Six Million Dollar Man), and just about every renegade cop cliche there is. But it moved along briskly, the action was taut and the special effects were good. I certainly feel better about watching I, Robot than I did watching Sky Captain.
But let’s get this straight. Though it borrows themes from Isaac Asimov’s Robot stories, it is not anything like an Asimov story. Far from it actually. Sure it has elements of Asimov’s work, most prominently the Three Laws, Susan Calvin, and a cop distrustful of robots. Other details pop up throughout the film. The robot company is US Robotics, a close match to Asimovs US Robots & Mechanical Men. The robots in question are designated NS-5, making them part of the Nestor series of robots. Asimov features an NS-2 robot in one of his early stories. As for those Three Laws:
- A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Seems infallible, but Asimov found plenty of loopholes in these laws that he explored in his stories.
In the movie the cop called Del Spooner, played by Will Smith. Asimov’s detective is named Elijah Bailey, and he goes offworld to investigate a murder. Bailey is aided by an advanced humanoid robot named Daneel Olivaw. Daneel plays a large part in many of Asimov’s books, and his exploration of the Three Laws in those novels led inexorably to the Zeroth Law. “A robot may not injure humanity, or through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.” In fact, the last of his Robot Novels turns upon this supposition when Daneel does allow a human being to die in order to save humanity from his mad plan of destruction.
Asimov wrote hundreds of stories, and spent the last years of his life connecting his three great series of novels together in one mythology. Robots led to Empire, which led to the Foundation. While this movie is a pale shadow of Asimov’s work, it is not a bad adaptation.